Thursday, February 24, 2011

Steele Cites Education Department Changes

By House Speaker Kris Steele

Recent events and behavior of certain individuals at the State Board of Education prompted a review of the structure and responsibilities of the State Department.

The controversy brought to light the need to define the responsibilities and roles of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education.

House Bill 2139 emerged with the intent of clarifying the direction and administration of the Department of Education as well as the oversight of public instruction. According to the state constitution, the State Board of Education is tasked with the authority to supervise public instruction. However, the Superintendent of Public Education is the administrator of the department and an elected official who is accountable to the people. He/She should be given the authority to direct the department’s budget and manage matters involving personnel.

The supervision of public instruction, including oversight of curriculum and implementation of education policies advanced by the legislature, will remain under the jurisdiction of the State Board while the authority to manage the department will reside with the State Superintendent.

The measure allows the Superintendent to establish divisions and positions within the Department as well as incorporate decisions necessary to carry out the duties, function and goals of the office.

In addition, House Bill 2139 directs the State Board of Education, in conjunction with the State Superintendent, to submit a departmental budget detailing data regarding the operation and function of the department.

House Bill 2139 provides a balanced approach in which the superintendent and board will now have clearly defined roles and shared responsibilities.

The measure received unanimous approval by the Common Education Committee earlier this week.

This is a positive and productive step that will move Oklahoma forward in providing quality education to children across the state.

Ultimately, any organization reflects the personality of its leadership; therefore, it is paramount our educational leaders have a clearly defined structure that will allow for the implementation of a comprehensive plan for improving education for the benefit of every child.

Since education is the stepping stone to success and foundation for future opportunities, Oklahomans must be well-equipped and prepared to excel at the next level. Every child deserves access to a quality education and the House of Representatives is committed to reforms that will enable students to achieve their full potential.

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